I sit with them at lunch.
I eat with my hands it’s said that’s undignified.
I am offered cutlery for correct culturally accepted manners to use in public. I refuse.
I am told
It’s not Western culture, it’s dirty even though I clean my hands before I eat.
I feel offended but choose not to confront it directly for fear of white privilege and other repercussions.
I am expected to understand other African people’s African language, food and music as if Africa is one country like America with most English as their language.
My accent does not mean I am stupid. After all, one day a white woman asked me “Do you speak English” since I didn’t understand what she said in her accent. Another encounter was when a student asked me if we Africans live on trees, assuming we don’t have houses as developed countries after I said I didn’t understand what they were saying.
Others don’t understand that as much as they hear our accents, we also hear their accents.
As an immigrant, there are expectations to live up to your ‘black norms’ stereotypes.
Non-conforming with Eurocentric hair types gets attention in workplaces.
In a world that tells us to mould and shape (share/accept) ourselves into crap.
One day I braided very long braids and had just changed from a shorter curled wig, a white coworker asked if I did magic to my hair, and I joked my hair can grow longer overnight.
The self-hate was well imprinted during the colonial and slavery eras.
I am expected to hate my ancestor’s way of living as backward and culturally inferior.
On the contrary with my accent, I’m well accepted to take on odd jobs like feeding the elderly, taking care of the most vulnerable developmentally-challenged people, and working as a labourer at a Canadian factory.
Here our accents are well received, because the interest is to talk less and labour more since our muscles and healthy able bodies are the most qualified aspects (capitalism always needs muscles and blood to suck).
Our accents and knowledge are nonentity in higher white-collar and well-paying decent jobs where a few of us are used as “tokens” to promote the Canadian illusion of inclusivity, diversity, and multicultural beliefs.
Silence in the face of racism is a form of abuse.
By Wangari Mwangi